Published by Lake Union Publishing ISBN 9781503937154
Trade paperback, $14.95, 352 pages
I was intrigued by the premise of Deanna Lynn Sletten's novel, Finding Libbie. Emily is helping her grandmother pack up the family farm when she finds a hatbox filled with old photos of her father as young man. Her grandmother tells Emily that they are photos of Emily's father Jack with his first wife Libbie.
His first wife? Emily had no idea that her father was married before. Her own mother died last year, and Emily knew how much her parents loved each other and how devastated her father was when she died.
The story of Libbie, a beautiful young woman from one of the town's most prominent families, and Jack, the hardworking son of a cabinet maker who lived on a farm, is related through flashbacks. Jack was head-over-heels in love with Libbie when he swept her off her feet in high school.
Libbie's mother was openly hostile to Jack and Libbie's relationship, looking down on Jack as just a lowly mechanic, someone who couldn't possibly make her daughter happy. But Libbie was in love, and Jack's family treated with kindness and respect, unlike her mother and older sister Gwen.
We see how Jack wooed Libbie with romantic gestures, and was thrilled when she agreed to marry him, over her mother's strenuous objections. They lived in a little cottage on a small lake, and Jack worked as a mechanic. Life was good.
Libbie tried hard to be a good wife, keeping house and cooking meals she learned from Jack's mother, but she soon grew bored. She began to drink, and her moods swung wildly. She feared that she was becoming more like her mother, who increasingly began to spend her entire day in her dark bedroom, drunk and taking pills.
Jack was distraught; he did everything he could to help make life easier for Libbie, but when her father bought them a big house, Jack had to work more hours just to keep up with the bills, and so he spent more time away from home. The isolation that Libbie felt only made matters worse.
Eventually we discover what happened to Libbie and Jack, and Emily sets out to try and find Libbie. In her journey to find Libbie, Emily discovers some things about her own life. She has been living with and supporting her boyfriend while he goes to school, and she has to decide if this is the life she is willing to settle for.
I loved Finding Libbie, and it's not the genre of book I usually enjoy. I found myself so caught up in Jack and Libbie's story, and Emily's journey too. I read it in two sittings, and it even kept me on the treadmill longer, the sign of a truly good book.
Sletten handled the topic of addiction and mental illness with sensitivity, and I daresay that anyone who has experienced that for themselves will probably appreciate this beautiful story even more deeply. Since the story takes place in the late 1960's/early 1970's, people didn't understand as much about these issues as we do now, and so didn't know how to handle them.
Everything in this story- the well-drawn characters, the plot and the Minnesota setting during the Vietnam War-worked for me. I admit to tearing up at the end of the story, and if you liked Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook, this book is for you. I liked it even better than The Notebook. I highly recommend Finding Libbie.
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Deanna Lynn Sletten's tour. The rest of her tour stops are here:
Deanna Lynn Sletten’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Tuesday, September 6th: Bookchickdi
Thursday, September 8th: Reading Reality
Wednesday, September 14th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, September 15th: Back Porchervations
Friday, September 16th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, September 19th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, September 21st: Mama Vicky Says
Monday, September 26th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Tuesday, October 4th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, October 5th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, October 6th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Friday, October 7th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, October 10th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Wednesday, October 12th: Write Read Life